100,000 dead and the inability to expel the enemy from their territories: what foreign media write about Ukraine now


Recently, in the foreign media space, we increasingly notice anti-Ukrainian narratives that express doubts about the success of our counteroffensive, or, as was the case with Seymour Hersh, accuse the authorities of corruption. A similar article was published by the publication Politico, which traces the opinion about the likelihood of negotiations between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

“The Biden administration is quietly preparing for the possibility that if Ukraine’s spring counteroffensive falls short of expectations, critics at home and allies abroad will argue that America has come up short, too”, – this is how the article begins.

We became interested in examining theses from this article in more detail and finding out what might be true about it.


The failure of the counteroffensive will force Ukraine to think about negotiations with Russia: what is the real situation

The thesis about the high probability of an unsuccessful counteroffensive of Ukraine runs through the entire material as a red thread. It is as if the Ukrainian army is exhausted and unable to dislodge the enemy from its territories.

The consequences of the shelling of peaceful cities of Ukraine by Russian troops. Source: https://www.dw.com/uk/viina-v-ukraini/a-61050063

Quote: “Moreover, U.S. intelligence indicates that Ukraine simply does not have the ability to push Russian troops from where they were deeply entrenched — and a similar feeling has taken hold about the battlefield elsewhere in Ukraine, according to officials”.

Olena Mokrenchuk, a serviceman and a press officer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

Olena Mokrenchuk, a serviceman and a press officer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, agreed to talk with us on this topic. She believes that the relative «silence» at the front is preparation for large-scale events, not exhaustion.

«If it seems that there are no successes at the front now, it only means that the troops are preparing for something in the rear. Let us take, for example, the same period. When it seemed to civilians that nothing was happening, and we had a lot of training during this time. If in 2014 we could operate at the brigade level and only unite brigades into some sector, then by the end of 2021, that is, at the beginning of the invasion, we were already conducting all-Ukrainian training. The same “Zametil`-22” [Blizzard-22 — ed.], which ended literally two weeks before the Russian invasion. It gave us the opportunity to repel this attack. That is, what is happening now is the same. There is one thing at the front, preparations are going on in the rear, and the fact that there will be a counteroffensive is clear».

The so-called «exhaustion» of the Ukrainian army is nothing more than the calm before the storm. Another point we drew attention to was the number of losses on our side, which were reported by journalists. “The Ukrainians have suffered staggering losses — around 100,000 casualties — with many of their top soldiers either sidelined or exhausted”, – we do not know where this media takes this information.

We will remind you that the command of the Armed Forces does not disclose data on losses among the Ukrainian military. In November 2022, the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced on Twitter that Ukraine had lost 100,000 military personnel and 20,000 civilians.

A wounded Ukrainian soldier and his comrade in arms. Source: https://abcnews.go.com/International/war-ukraine-reached-turning-point/story?id=90019956

After that, the post was removed, and thanks for the criticism about the inaccuracy. Now Politico made the same mistake, which they wrote about at the end of the article, but did not remove the numbers.

Politico edited the original text of the article

We asked Elena what she thinks about these numbers and why the data is not disclosed.

«This is information from Russian sources, because Ukraine does not disclose this data. Our society has gone through several stages during these 9 years. The first stage was on the Maidan, events were constantly escalating. Our society was very shocked by the shooting on the Maidan, 100 of our people, so much so that we were simply paralyzed by it, we could not do anything for several weeks. During this time, Russia seized Crimea. The second such shocking moment was Ilovaisk. When they just as cynically shot our citizens, about 350 of our soldiers were killed there. We are talking now about those data that are clearly established, that there are names, there are surnames, there are relatives of these fallen. That is, it is not just a figure from the ceiling. This is valid real data.

Winter 2013-2014 On the Maidan there were mass protests against the power of Viktor Yanukovych, which ended with the execution of protesters. Source: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/02/21/ukraine-six-years-after-the-maidan/

We realized that as soon as we fell into a stupor from these losses, the Russians began to increase their attacks. And this is the biggest danger. Therefore, during this large-scale invasion, Zaluzhnyi and the Ministry of Defense in general did the right thing in that they prohibited the dissemination of this information. Moreover, this figure is very, very much left out and, in my opinion, it is simply taken from some Russian resources».

Quote: “Those concerns recently spilled out into the open during a leak of classified information onto social media. A top secret assessment from early February stated that Ukraine would fall “well short” of its counteroffensive goals. More current American assessments are that Ukraine may make some progress in the south and east, but won’t be able to repeat last year’s success”.

In general, forecasts regarding the spring counteroffensive of Ukraine are not very appropriate, because everything directly depends on our fighters and command. Mokrenchuk believes that failure on the battlefield is absolutely impossible, because there will be a result in any case.

“The question of failure is practically not considered. We can only talk about the effectiveness of our counterattack. That is, either we exhaust the enemy, and he wastes shells on us and his personnel die. We see that they die simply on an industrial scale. This is the least we can get. Also, we can get a greater result in the sense that we will occupy some strategically important territories and prepare ourselves for the further development of our offensive. Well, in the best case scenario, we bring the enemy to the point where he again makes a gesture of goodwill and flees in a panic from the territories occupied with him. Therefore, we consider the following three options”.

Ukrainian servicemen walk on a street as they just come back from tranches of Bakhmut in Chasiv Yar, Ukraine, on March 8, 2023.
Photo: AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

She also added that another positive factor for Ukraine is the huge field for maneuver. We can advance in any direction, while the Russians are blocked in the south by the Black Sea, have transportation difficulties, and are under constant military surveillance.

Quote: “That doesn’t even account for the reaction of America’s allies, mainly in Europe, who may see a peace negotiation between Ukraine and Russia as a more attractive option if Kyiv can’t prove victory is around the corner”.

The topic of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia was repeatedly raised in the media, and our authorities repeatedly denied the possibility of holding them. Our expert explained that one of the reasons for such a decision may be the sharp disapproval of society.

«If we talk about the mood of the society in general, yes, I can say that the mood of the society is that there will be no negotiations with Russia. Just from the word at all and none. Anyone who tries to negotiate with the Russians will be subjected to very strong pressure from society, and the Maidans will turn out to be a fairy tale. Because after all these deaths, after Buchi, Irpen, after we saw what they do in the occupied territories, how they mock our people and deport children. Take a survey on the streets, ask people, I think that maybe one or two out of a hundred will say let’s talk. Especially after yesterday’s Uman`, where 23 people have already died. Well, what are the negotiations?”

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire after a Russian attack at a residential building in Uman, central Ukraine, April 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

On 28 April, 2023, a Russian rocket hit a residential building in Uman`, Cherkasy Oblast. 23 people died, of which 6 children.


Will Ukraine survive without America?

The thesis that Ukraine cannot win the war without the US is not new. Based on it, Politico journalists assumed that the goal of our counteroffensive is to show at least some kind of victory for the United States.

Quote: “There is belief that Kyiv is willing to consider adjusting its goals, according to American officials, and a more modest aim might be easier to be sold as a win”.

American weapons arrive in Ukraine. Source: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

We discussed the idea that Ukraine will not have enough strength to dislodge the enemy from its territories, a little above. Regarding the «small victory», Olena Mokrenchuk expressed herself as follows:

«I have already said that the counterattack can have a certain level of effectiveness. It is a war, and it is difficult to predict something. But if we talk about the fact that Ukraine needs some demonstrative actions for a demonstrative speech, so that Europe helps or does not help. Look, we understand very well that Europe actually helps us when things are very scary here, because it understands that it will be next after us».

Quote:If the counteroffensive does not go well, the administration has only itself to blame for withholding certain types of arms and aid at the time when it was most needed,” said Kurt Volker, the special envoy for Ukraine during the Trump administration”.

Mokrenchuk sees this opinion as not entirely appropriate. Only Russia will be the only one who will blame the USA for the theoretical failure of Ukraine.

«We agree that the Russians blame the USA. Moreover, it does not matter whether the offensive will be successful or whether the offensive will be partially successful. The Russians will still find something to blame. There will be no official accusations from our side. Why? Because we understand very well that our allies have given us a lot of help. And of course, the more weapons we have, the better we will be able to fight, the faster we will be able to end this Russian aggression».

The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyi, during a speech in the US Congress, December 22, 2022

The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during a speech in the US Congress, December 22, 2022

The text also contained the opinion that, if the Republicans take over the House of Representatives, military aid to Ukraine may slow down significantly. We asked our expert whether our state can survive without American weapons.

“Now what is happening in our country now, when we had the revolution of dignity and the first hostilities, we did not have help from the United States. But we fought, we will fight, we will continue with the forces and means that we will have at that time. Of course, going back to the topic of time and sacrifices, this will stretch out in time and there will be more sacrifices. That’s all. But the struggle continues. We cannot stop because it is a question of our survival. If earlier, perhaps in 2014, someone did not understand something, and in 2019 they still thought, well, just stop shooting and everything will be fine. It won’t be good”.

She also added:

“If before we had the goal to simply go to our borders and stop, now we understand that we need to make efforts in the political sphere as well so that this terrorist organization, which calls itself the Russian Federation, ceases to have the opportunity to terrorize the whole world”.


What’s wrong with the Politico story?

Let’s start by giving a brief reference to what kind of publication this is.

Politico – is a German-owned political newspaper company based in Arlington County, Virginia, US, that covers politics and policy in the United States and internationally. It primarily distributes content online but also produces printed newspapers, radio, and podcasts. Its coverage focuses on topics such as the federal government, lobbying and the media.

The very fact that this media provided incorrect data regarding Ukraine’s losses during the war no longer promotes trust. Also, similar materials can put a certain pressure on our state to sow uncertainty in our forces and incline us to negotiations. Olena Mokrenchuk shares the same opinion.

«These articles are custom or someone doesn’t understand the topic very well. Already the fact that these figures of 100,000 dead appear there are clearly taken from the Russian public. Likewise, the mood of this article that I read, yes, lets guys give up quickly because … is a pro-Russian narrative. It has been repeated since 2014, during the Maidan. Let’s reconcile there and live in harmony. The fact that they are trying to pressure us and force us to negotiate speaks only of one thing they feel their weakness. If you follow, surges of pressure on us in the mass media and Western society (yellow vests, rape of German women) have always been correlated with our successes at the front. In my opinion, less attention should be paid to them».

So we can’t say that the article we have reviewed in this material is bribery, but we definitely have doubts about the purpose of its publication. It will be appropriate to fully discuss the situation with the Ukrainian counteroffensive already after its completion, then all opinions will be based on facts. For now, we can only make assumptions and do everything so that the Armed Forces defeat the enemy.


Tetiana Stelmakh

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